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Upbeat approach embraces learning needs, catering for rather more than advertised. One parent who packed tissues before meeting teachers, expecting to discuss behaviour issues, ended up being overwhelmed by praise. While arts feature large in pupils’ career horizons, sports almost as popular. Aspirations and confidence stem, think pupils, from school’s desire to ‘want you to like sport.’ Wherever we went, a mop or broom was sure to be in attendance close by. Much appreciated cleaning team was particularly busy in recently (and handsomely) refurbished separate nursery/reception building – all…

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What the school says...

Amesbury is the only co-educational prep school in Hindhead/Haslemere and a gateway to a range of senior schools. We are a family school where siblings study together. Places are offered by date of registration not competitive entry, no commitments at weekends and prep is completed at school.
Pre-nursery operates all year round. No curriculum hierarchy - children are able to find a language in which they are articulate, which builds confidence. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Interim Head

From September 2020, Jon Whybrow, interim head (new head will be appointed for September 2021). Originally pursued a short-service commission in the Royal Marines following his teacher training from Exeter, later joining Latymer Upper as a geography and PE teacher, thence to Edgeborough School (Farnham) and Emanuel School and Devonshire House (both London), where he rose through the ranks to deputy head. Has held headships at the Junior School at City of London Freemen’s School in Ashtead, Beachborough School in Northamptonshire and Cheltenham College Prep.


Through registration plus visit - not a formal assessment but the opportunity for child and school to get acquainted, pupils accepted until spaces filled. Scholarships (academic, tennis and expressive arts) available years 3 to 7 for those ‘head and shoulders above other very talented children’; worth applying for, with awards worth up to 50 per cent of the fees.

Nursery flexibility a given, with full days for those who need them (complete with freshly cooked hot meals, served in nursery classrooms; reception eat in dining hall, served like year 1 and 2 pupils at the table) and though school will suggest at least two consecutive sessions a week, there’s no minimum nursery stay, with staff on hand to plug gaps at relatively short notice if there’s a sudden bulge in numbers, now recovering after a lean patch. Will not adopt government suggestions to ease staffing ratios but up entry qualifications by way of compensation. ‘Stupid,’ says nursery head. ‘It doesn’t matter how well qualified you are, you’re still only one person.’


Fall out after year 6 no longer an issue, says school, with more girls staying on. Pupils, in no doubt as to the benefits, all happily cited kudos-factor of being top in the pecking order. Most popular destinations are Seaford College, Charterhouse, Hurstpierpoint, Churcher’s College, The Royal Grammar School, Guildford and Portsmouth Grammar School.

Our view

One of a cluster of preps in this well-to-do area of Surrey, now more primrose path than rat run following opening of Hindhead tunnel - ‘Other schools build a new sports hall, we spend millions on an underpass' - school is considered a breath of fresh air by its supporters, who extol approach as trad with a twist.

On the surface, it oozes convention, second occupants of Lutyens’ only purpose-built school, having moved here in 1917 from Bickley in Kent (was originally founded in 1870 in Redhill) to swap air raids for fresh air. Designed like a scaled down Hollywood set, main building features windows at two-thirds height, with a baby grand entrance and chapel, added 1938, which potentially reduces a wrath-filled God to a Wendy house-sized deity - a much more comforting notion to the young. Even the reception signs, so tiny that this reviewer walked past them twice, may have been boil-washed one too many times.

Some areas, a bit factory second here and there on date of visit, have been improved with considerable smartening up: blue-canopied entrances on more modern buildings, including super new visual and performing arts centre, an attractive and well-equipped example of the genre, as well as impressive giant, echoing sports hall - a yodeller’s dream - a new dance studio, refurbished science department and general pepping up of floor surfaces and corridors. New library and wellbeing hub introduced in 2020.

Also notable for exceptional cleanliness. Wherever we went, a mop or broom was sure to be in attendance close by. Much appreciated cleaning team was particularly busy in recently (and handsomely) refurbished separate nursery/reception building - all whiteness and brightness, with space for big, pristine, set piece indoor toys, recently enhanced with modish free flow into secure outside area (complete with inevitable free flow mud), all presided over by caring, multi-tasking staff (capable of spotting child in need of TLC while extolling multiple uses of home-made Play-doh).

While parents appreciate surroundings, heading praise list (which is extensive) is school’s philosophy - ‘holistic,’ said one. ‘They balance the academic side with lots of other things so that all the children can find a way of expressing themselves.’ Approach can manifest itself in an absence of surface polish: hair that little bit longer than the norm; uniform (traditional skirts for girls, boys in viyella shirts with dress down brown guernseys for all - ‘only itchy with short sleeves,’ said plucky pupil) occasionally lacking in parade gloss finish; productions and matches feature all comers.

We’d written originally that these were in consequence ‘a tad rougher round the edges’ based on parent feedback. ‘Inaccurate’ says school. ‘We are rougher round the edges on a day to day basis, hair is sometimes longer. However, we are neurotic about getting it absolutely right on match days.’ Ditto chapel choir and school plays, which are ‘super professional.’ The trick ‘is to be more relaxed until the moment when it matters and then we are absolutely spot on.’

There’s also convention where it matters - ‘very strict on how they speak to the teachers, so not liberal in that respect,’ said a parent and no shortage of competition. But while two houses, carefully matched for ability, are expected to slug it out for supremacy during the year, what shines through is wrap-round encouragement for everyone, not just the most able, with the slightest flicker of talent breathed into a living flame.

Upbeat approach embraces learning needs, catering for rather more than advertised. One parent who packed tissues before meeting teachers, expecting to discuss behaviour issues, ended up being overwhelmed by praise. Dyslexia, official speciality, had own separate centre until a few years ago. A new head of learning support, also qualified to carry out assessments, has now been appointed and most support is now provided in class. Considerable flexibility, however. ‘If pupils need somebody physically sitting alongside them in the lesson to support them, that’s what we’ll do - focus is not on one size fits all: it’s the right programme for the right child,’ says head of English.

Sets the tone for excellent pastoral care, in and out of lesson time, from twinkly matron, popular with the walking wounded and others - ‘we have our regulars’ - to staff mingling with pupils for ‘usually good and never awful’ lunches in delightful blue-painted dining hall, dominated by bison’s head (which lends its name to major house trophy, though history and significance remain an apparent mystery to all).

Register ensures that everyone eats (older pupils can choose when) though latecomers have to negotiate bottlenecks either side of diddy double doors as two-way queues of well-nourished, 21st century children jostle for supremacy, accompanied by fairly vigorous shoving by all.

It’s the only sign of anything other than cordial pupil relationships, with friendships, seen as a huge strength, crossing between year groups, welcome sense of ‘freedom to talk,’ said pupil and little in the way of conflict. One pupil who had experienced bullying in previous school felt ‘there’s just not the space for bullies. If you did it, you’d find yourself on your own.’ Bonds strengthened by taster boarding week for everyone in years 5 to 8, groups of 10 boys or girls at a time – Mallory Towers lite, big on the hot chocolate with marshmallows element.

Academically, it’s emphatically not a hothouse, though parents feel that standards are rising across the board, helped by emphasis on focus group teaching and calm but engaging class lessons notable for levels of discussion (lots of confident participation through the age ranges, reception children working on ‘ay’ sounds as a group; year 3 children engaged in quick fire mental maths and a school-wide absence of furrowed brows).

English and maths are excellent, remaining subjects being brought into line, recent staff additions generally reckoned to be plugging previous gaps (Latin and French now much improved, felt one mother). Humanities, headed by hugely popular teacher (has starring role in whole school charity remake of Pixie Lott hit, worth three minutes of anyone’s time on Youtube) who is also very dashing, notable for dynamic text book light, tech-heavy approach to geography (we enjoyed contrast with low tech lunchtime message system – communicated in chalk, on a blackboard). Years 7 and 8 now do the Prep School Baccalaureate rather than common entrance.

Plenty of extras on offer in the form of clubs, too, and if more pupils hadn’t taken up Mandarin, it was only, they said, because there was so much else going on, with many ecstatic about performing arts, much open to all and sweeping plentiful numbers of boys as well as girls into their orbit.

Music embraces everything from formal chapel choir to semi-secret bands formed each year, strutting stuff at annual concert. There’s plentiful dance and drama including ambitious takes on Shakespeare (a swinging 60s Comedy of Errors and 1920s gangland style Hamlet amongst them) while inaugural action-packed arts week successful but so energy and resource sapping, hoovering up just about everyone, staff and pupils, into its maw, that likely to become every other year wonder.

While arts feature large in pupils’ career horizons, sports almost as popular. Aspirations and confidence stem, think pupils, from school’s desire to ‘want you to like sport.’ Taken seriously (‘steely’ is description of sports teams in prospectus), as so it should be, with four grass pitches, one Astroturf and ‘very fancy’ sports hall, foyer decorated with motivational images of assorted sports, to do them in. No swimming pool and wouldn’t be on pupils’ wish list in any case. ‘It would get cold and crowded and you’d want to get out,’ said one, sensibly. Tennis, a big thing (with full time professional), is now offered from nursery, two ping pong tables installed primarily for year 7s and 8s ‘and other years when they’re away or not using them’ also hitting the spot. But, just as school prizes aren’t just awarded to ‘the obvious people but the ones with the right attitude,’ say pupils, team selection favours the also rans as well as the stars. It’s a brave strategy, given level of local opposition, main rival prompting something close to pupil bloodlust when you quiz them.

All in all, adds up to an atmosphere that substantiates the blurb. Many a school may claim to be ‘academically rigorous’. Not all would also make such a virtue out of also being ‘relaxed’ (prospectus wording). This one does. Parents in search of an education which will deliver confident children who see their futures in terms of unlimited options rather than curtailed ambitions - ‘I’d like to be an international sportsman, I just don’t know which sport yet,’ said one - would be well advised to pay a visit.

Special Education Needs

At Amesbury our learning support department assists a range of pupils, and in particular we have Helen Arkell trained support teachers who specialise mainly in the areas of dyslexia and dyscalculia. In-class support can vary from small groups to one-to-one support depending on the level of need. Timetabled support is overseen by the head of SEND, head of English and head of maths. The head of SEND can also put parents in touch with registered educational psychologists, child psychologists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists, if an assessment of a pupil's learning or emotional need is necessary. At Amesbury we also cater for any additional access arrangements that a pupil may need in their exams, based on an up-to-date educational psychology assessment.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dyslexia Y
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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